Real Sociedad beat Benfica 3-1 in San Sebastián this afternoon to end the Portuguese team’s slim hopes of making the knockout stages of the competition, making it four defeats in four matches in Group D for the Eagles.
Benfica were lucky to be only 3-0 down at the break after a nightmare showing in the first 45 minutes, and coach Roger Schmidt admitted he had got things wrong.
“In my opinion we weren’t prepared for today’s game and if that was the case it is my responsibility,” he said.
Those words will perplex Benfica fans after their team had been thoroughly outplayed in the reverse fixture at the Estádio da Luz two weeks ago, when a 1-0 defeat flattered the Lisbon giants. It appeared the German manager had learned nothing from the chastening experience.
The first 30 minutes were a harrowing experience for the large contingent of Benfica fans who travelled to the Basque country.
Real Sociedad scored three goals through Mikel Merino, Mikel Oyarzabal and Ander Barrenetxea, had the ball in the Benfica net twice more only for the strikes were ruled out by VAR, and missed a penalty, all in the first half hour of the match.
Such was Benfica’s disarray at this stage, some of their fans may have feared a repeat of one of the club’s darkest nights when Celta de Vigo beat Benfica 7-0 in a UEFA Cup match in 1999.
Benfica improved in the second half, scoring through Rafa Silva, but the home win was never in doubt.
Roger Schmidt post-match
“If we analyse today’s game, like our previous ones, we weren’t good enough. We are out of the Champions League. It’s very disappointing. The intensity, compactness, focus and togetherness of Real Sociedad was better than us in all these aspects. The game was practically over at the break.
“We’re really disappointed, and I am especially. If the team isn’t prepared for a game of this level – Champions League level – it is my responsibility and we have to think about our approach. It was a very disappointing performance.
“We played really badly in the first half. Conceding a goal so early was not good for our confidence, but we can’t use it as an excuse for how we played here today. We have shown that we can play at this level, like we did last season. We didn’t play with confidence and our opponents showed how this can make a difference in a game.
“In my opinion we weren’t prepared for today’s game and if that was the case it is my responsibility. I have to prepare the players in the tactical aspects, in terms of motivation and looking at our performance today I did a very bad job.”
Champions League over, Europa League in danger
Benfica are out of the Champions League and have work to do to qualify for the Europa League. The Portuguese champions have zero points from 4 matches, three fewer than FC Salzburg in third place. The trip to Austria on 12 December will be decisive.
For now, Schmidt will quickly shift his focus back to domestic football with a crunch game against Lisbon rivals and current Primeira Liga leaders Sporting on Sunday.
By Tom Kundert